FIANNA Fáil leader and Cork South Central TD Micheál Martin has said that not enough has been done to fill empty roles in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Cork.
Mr Martin said that the family of one child that his office was dealing with had been told they would be waiting 18 months for an assessment due to the lack of staff available in CAMHS, and many more were being affected.
In response to a parliamentary question, Mr Martin was told by the head of mental health services for the HSE in Cork and Kerry that there were two of the eight consultant roles in the service vacant at present, and that sick leave and lack of staff meant that they could not be covered internally Efforts to recruit new people, both in Ireland and abroad had failed.
"We acknowledge that due to the lack of medical cover there have been and will be at times unacceptable delays and we acknowledge the difficulties faced by children, adolescents and their families in the absence of a fully staffed CAMHS service," said the response.
While Mr Martin said that he appreciated the honesty of the response, he said that he did not think that enough was being done.
Having met with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister of State for Mental Health Helen McEntee on the matter, he said that he was urging the government to take an approach similar to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) and use private mental health specialists to treat children where there was a lack of capacity in the public sector.
"We need to use private capacity where it exists and where there are shortages," he said, saying that the NTPF, which the government had defunded until Fianna Fáil secured new commitments to it last year, was a tried and proven approach to healthcare provision.
He said that the government also needed to look at the packages offered to the staff they were targeting, saying that the jobs needed to be made appealing to specialists at home and abroad.
"I think that there has been a lack of urgency about this. I think that there has been a lack of innovation in the packages we are offering. We have to be competitive with other jurisdictions," he said.